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Chiefs to honor running streak

Rogue River's five-time Class 3A state champion girls cross country team will be honored at 9:30 this morning in an assembly at the school gym.

There's only one state championship for each sport each year and our girls have won five in a row, first-year principal Dave Orr says. This is a huge thing.

I know the hard work and amount of time and energy they put in. I see them here at six each morning and that means they're getting up at five. Then after school, they're running again and they're running in the summer.

Orr came to Rogue River from neighboring Crater High and sees parallels between the Comets? wrestling program and the Chieftains? running crew.

We've talked about pride, honor and tradition since the day I got here, Orr says. And one of the cornerstones, obviously, is cross country. Five championships in a row is what I call tradition.

Unlike a lot of championship streaks, this one has survived two coaching changes.

Stan Goodell led the Chiefs to two titles before being forced to resign by a former administration. The event split the community, but under Gary Anderson, the Chiefs added two more championships.

Because of injuries, the streak was fragile heading into Saturday's state meet at Lane Community College in Eugene. But led by senior Bobbi Wright, the Chiefs set the stage for what could be a much-longer run.

We're still asking ?Is this for real, can you pinch me?? says Nicki Wright, a longtime assistant, elevated to head coach this year.

Next year, Rogue River could pull even with Bend for the most consecutive championships by a girls cross country team. Bend won six straight Class 4A crowns from 1990-95. The overall record of eight in the sport is held by South Eugene's boys, 1972-79.

The Chiefs return their 2-3-4 runners Lauren Fety, Erin Gilkison and Lacey Sparks. The key will be the recovery of freshmen Ashley Fletcher and Kelly Birdseye — both of whom missed the season because of knee injuries suffered playing soccer. If they're ready, then Fety's sister Allegra, a standout eighth-grader, should give the Chiefs six solid runners — a luxury they lacked this fall.

We don't want to be put through the mental stress we were put through this year, says coach Wright. It was such a roller coaster ride, up and down. We'd get someone there and they would quit. We'd go for two weeks, get somebody over the hump of being in pain every day and then the rug would be jerked out. It?d be like ?Now who do we ask??

Although her daughter will be leaving, Wright says she's in for the long run as a coach.

I love running, it's my passion, much to my husband's dismay, Wright says. As long as they?ll have me back, I'll keep doing it.

Orr says Goodell will be at today's ceremony.

We've invited Stan, Orr says. He's had a big input into these kids? success. We're not afraid to give credit to where credit is due.

A TWO-HOUR PLAYOFF

EDITION

of Rogue Valley Sports Talk, hosted by Joe Brett will be carried, 6-8 p.m. Thursday, on Cable Access Channel 9.

The program will feature coaches and football players from North Medford, South Medford and Cascade Christian along with a review of the brackets.

The show will also feature calls from viewers at 552-6079.

THIS IS THE SECOND

time since the 1985 split that both North and South Medford have ventured into the football playoffs.

Back in 1992, North Medford finished second in the Southern Oregon Conference and defeated Canby, 42-21, in the first round before dropping a 28-20 overtime decision to Tigard.

South Medford was the SOC's No. — entry, beating Lakeridge, 26-24, on the road and ousting David Douglas, 28-19, before losing to eventual state champion Marshfield, 32-7, in the quarterfinals.

North Medford's first-round opponent on Friday night has had little success on the football field.

Lincoln owns one of the state's oldest athletic programs (The Cardinals won the first official state basketball title in 1919), but has little tradition on the gridiron.

Lincoln's lone playoff win came at the expense of coaching legend Don Requa in 1954 as the Cardinals defeated Pendleton, 25-13.

Lincoln made it to the playoffs in 1956 and 1966, but hasn't seen postseason play since.

While it's been a long wait for the Portland Interscholastic School across the street from Civic Stadium, its been even longer for the folks in Cave Junction — like forever.

Things have been livelier, says fifth-year Illinois Valley coach Perry Sheehan. You hear the talk and people are smiling more. It's been uplifting for the community.

Never mind that once-beaten Marist has been among the state's top-10 Class 3A teams most of the season. Playing into the second week of November is something special for the Cougars.

When we got here, I heard all the stories, Sheehan says. I heard they?d never won out there and they never would. But we didn't buy into it.

Our goal wasn't just to be competitive, it was to make the playoffs.

Reach reporter at 776-4483, or e-mail gstiles@mailtribune.com